Ravi Shankar: Bharat Ratna

December 14, 2012 at 7:53 pm (good people, india, Jim D, music, RIP)

Ravi Shankar was more than a virtuoso in Hindustani classic music, although he was certainly that. He was an experimental creator within India who incorporated the mathematical rhythms of South Indian carnatic music into the north Indian system. He played the sitar as nobody else could, with bass notes to the fore.

Musical innovation was the hallmark of his career. His success in the West was due not only to innate talent but also to his instinctive ability to adapt Indian styles to a European audience, as well as to the requirements of the music industry — from shortening raga performances for Western concerts, records and broadcast slots, to bending the rigid rules of “time theory”, under which each raga must be performed only at its assigned hour of the day.

Ultimately his greatness arose from the match of his manifold talents and broad world view. His immense personal success opened the way for many other Indian artists to appear in the West and for many Western listeners to delight in the sub-continent’s musical heritage

(adapted and excerpted from The Times obituary of December 13)

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